Unreal Nature

March 12, 2016

Lending Itself

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

… the photograph is pliable, lending itself to many different positions in many stories without belonging to any one.

Continuing through Chris Marker: La Jetée, by Janet Harbord (2009):

Barthes’s conception of photography saw in the photographic record an inscription of time, a mark of mortality and simultaneously a defense against it. Marker drives us in the opposite direction. With not exactly an indifference towards what the images mean, Marker takes photographs and uses what is within them to create a fictional frame in which each photograph comes to signify anew.

… In Marker’s hands, photographs are not time’s loyal witnesses but tricksters of temporal consciousness. This inversion of the role of photographs finds support from the Czech philosopher Vilém Flusser, who regards photographs as post-historical. In Flusser’s universe, photographs ‘are dams placed in the way of the stream of history, jamming historical happenings.’

[line break added] This is a philosophy that distinguishes image-thinking from writing-thinking. Photographs are part of a tradition of image-thinking that resists the constraints of the written text, its tenses, its forward movement and its regimentation of reading from left to right. Photographs retain some of the magical consciousness of pre-historical images that offered a subjective world view.

… Whilst there are demands made on photographs to serve the written text, to be either illustrative or evidential, photographs ultimately float free of these impositions. They belong neither to a time nor a place, but to a way of imagining and making the world as a scene, a range of different textures, memories and fantasies that resist temporal classification.

Photographs in his account are the rebellious tokens of this experience: ‘structurally speaking,’ writes Flusser, photographs are ‘antihistorical.’ There are too many photographs to neatly line up to provide one account, and in their multiplicity they produce contradiction rather than evidence.

… The imposition of a past, present and future tense on a range of disparate photographs reveals two things: that the photograph will lend itself to the spoken word and obey an order, and also that the photograph is pliable, lending itself to many different positions in many stories without belonging to any one.

My most recent previous post from Harbord’s book is here.

-Julie

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